The town of Komono in the northern part of Mie Prefecture is a quaint place to live, but also not immune to strangeness. The occasional irrational driver or thieving police officer has been spotted from time to time, but none of these things could match the oddity of recent months.
On August 16, Komono received a report from a contract worker tasked with collecting abandoned and illegally parked bicycles for impound. The reason was that near a free parking lot for bicycles beside a train station a large number of bicycles were found together on the side of the street. Moreover, they were standing upside down with their tires raised to the sky.
Disturbed by the kind of twisted mind or minds that would do something so inexplicable, the contractor told town officials: “The condition of the bicycles was abnormal. This is beyond the realm of ordinary mischief.”
The official who received the report was also alarmed by the oddness of it and immediately took it to Mayor Takayuki Shibata who then said, “That was me.”
Starting in July, parking bicycles overnight was prohibited at the free parking lot near the station. So from July to September, Mayor Shibata had been going to the parking lot early in the morning, picking up abandoned bicycles, and then putting them upside down on the side of the street nearby.
While that partially explains what happened, there were still a lot of unanswered questions, so at a town assembly meeting on 12 September, council members took Shibata to task for upside-down-bike-gate.
Town Councilor Enkichi Yokoyama asked, “Isn’t it a little much? Thinking about it logically, putting the bikes upside down can damage the handlebars and the basket and make the chains come off. It’s possible you’ll be charged with damage to property.”
Shibata explained that because the bikes were locked, the easiest way to carry them was upside down by their frame. In addition, on some days he’d carry 30 bikes and was too tired from it to turn them right-side up again. He added, “In Tokyo and Osaka, they pile bicycles up on trucks and take them away, but I never heard of anyone held liable for damage to property. I also confirmed with the police that it’s not a problem.”
▼ News report with Shibata explaining why and how he moved the bikes
Town Councilor Kengo Fujita then called the act “irrational” and pointed out that part of the area where Shibata left the bikes was private property and that he could be charged with illegal dumping.
Shibata fired back, “First of all, [bicycles] are not garbage. These bicycles were infringing on the rights of the townspeople.” However, he also said he would take the council members’ comments seriously and deal with the problem in a different way from then on.
He also told media, “It won’t happen anymore. Honestly, I never thought it would cause such a fuss.” It may become a moot point soon anyway as Komono plans to expand the bicycle parking options in that area from 50 spaces to 200 by the end of next March.
Granted it probably wasn’t the ideal solution to the problem, but Shibata certainly didn’t shy away from literally taking town matters into his own hands in his attempt to help the citizens.
Source: TV Asahi News, Ise Shimbun
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